Is it finally time to drop your landline? You could save a ton of money in the process.
In an emergency, a good old-fashioned landline phone has been regarded as the most reliable method of communication. When storms knock out power, cell towers often go dark, as do high-speed internet connections. Landlines, on the other hand, work without power or battery-operated phones.
But landlines have become increasingly expensive. A single basic line from Verizon in New York City, where it is based, can cost $85 a month. Meanwhile, as landline costs have risen — in urban areas the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 31 percent increase from May 2011 to May 2021 — wireless costs in the same 10-year period have decreased by 20 percent.
And landlines have lost some of their vaunted reliability. Phone companies don't want to support them anymore as they switch to fiber optics and have been accused of going out of their way to discourage landlines, according to customer complaints in California and elsewhere. Getting one repaired can take several months.
Concerns about the switch resolved
Fewer rely only on landlines
As of June 2020, the latest information available, only 2.3 percent of all households said they had a landline alone without cellphone service.
• Ages 18 to 24: 1.4%
• Ages 25 to 29: 0.3%
• Ages 30 to 34: 0.9%
• Ages 35 to 44: 0.5%
• Ages 45 to 64: 2.7%
• Age 65 and older: 10.4%
More important, 911 support for cellphones and online calls has improved. Emergency services now can easily pinpoint internet calls, and some wireless calls even can be traced to your exact location.
One lingering objection to quitting POTS, or plain old telephone service, has been the relatively poor audio quality of cell and over-the-internet calls. But two things have changed.
First, the voice quality of internet-based calls has improved, often matching and sometimes exceeding the clarity of traditional landlines, according to our tests. Second, everyone else is using cellphones and internet-based phones.
Back in 2003 when the National Center for Health Statistics started collecting data on cellphones vs. landlines, nearly 95 percent of households had a landline. At the end of 2018, fewer than 40 percent of households reported having a landline, and an overwhelming majority had a cellphone, too.
As of June 2020, more than 80 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 say they've gone totally wireless, while only 35 percent of people 65 and older have done so, according to the federal agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So people who talk to you with cellphones and internet-based phones affect the sound quality you hear, no matter whether you're on a landline.
If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em. Fortunately, you can switch and improve the reliability of your phone by choosing a system that combines cellular and internet access to cover you in case of an emergency. Oh, and you can save almost $50 a month — $560 a year — in the process.